Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Climate Change - Action Now!

A few people have recently commented that my lack of posts on climate change so far is strange, given my professional background in campaigning on the subject - and the fact that I believe it to be one of the most pressing issues facing modern society.

To be honest, not talking about the climate for a bit was a deliberate decision - I wanted to avoid going on about it precisely because that is what everyone expects from 'the Green'. My politics are based on the foundations of social justice, peace and democracy - and I wouldn't want those important issues to be submerged by constant discussion of environmental sustainability, important though it is to me. Of course, climate change is a social justice issue - one of the social justice issues of our time - but I wanted to leave a little time before exploring that concept fully.

However, there can be no doubt whatsoever that climate change is the greatest challenge facing anyone standing for elected office in the coming decades - and voters should be demanding answers from all of their candidates about what they are going to do to agitate for progress on the issue, and how qualified they are to do so.

What are my qualifications? Well, not only have I been campaigning on the issue for a decade (my first major bit of activism years ago at University was to co-found 'Oxford University Switch to Green', which got the Uni to start buying renewable energy, becoming the 7th largest purchaser of green electricity in Europe) but my professional life has also been dedicated to climate activism. My first full-time job was with the Climate Outreach Information Network, and then I moved onto Friends of the Earth. Amongst my other campaigning and journalism work, I now do self-employed event organisation for a social enterprise called Talk Action - putting on training courses about effectively communicating the issue of climate change.

Even if I didn't have that background in climate activism, simply by being a Green party candidate and sticking to party policy, I'd be head and shoulders above any candidate from any major political party. The latest scientific predictions suggest that an industrialized country, such as the UK, needs to reduce emissions by 90% by 2030, or approximately 10% per year from now on. Only the Greens are proposing any credible plan for doing this, while using the power of government to increase community cohesion and allow for a 'soft transition' to a green future.

Here in Hackney, that soft transition isn't being helped by our current Council administration. In Oxford, one of my major achievements was to push forward the adoption of the council's Climate Change Action Plan, and I became a founding member of the cross-party working group on climate change. In Hackney, believe it or not, the council is still working on releasing its Action Plan for climate change - let alone actually pushing forward with the scale of tangible projects that we need. Indeed, they seem in many ways to be going backwards. Recently, they have cancelled the 100% renewable energy purchasing policy that was introduced with great fanfare a few years ago, and have gone back to dirty energy instead. Genius. While Jules Pipe and others talk a good game on the climate (see their much heralded signing up to the 10:10 initiative recently), when it comes to action, they are woefully behind the curve.

I know that it can sometimes feel like a hopeless task to take action on climate change. There is no doubt that, without massive collective organisation, the problem is insoluble. While that is daunting, it is also a massive opportunity for the kind of grassroots, cooperative, social justice-based politics of which the Green Party is the electoral outlet. We are never going to get anywhere with this problem unless its solution holds out a vision for a better future - equal, fair, democratic and green.

P.S. If you'd like to read the best book on climate change, denial, and how to take meaningful action that I have so far read, you should check out Carbon Detox by my old boss, George Marshall.

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